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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

JOHN FELDSTED -- Take a Deep Breath Folks

A number of people have contacted me concerned about federal government spending. They wonder why the opposition parties are not holding the government accountable for ever expanding spending to offset the loss if income for businesses and individuals.

In March 2020, the opposition parties gave the government permission to spend whatever it deemed necessary to deal with the coronavirus crisis from then until September 30th. The Commons passed the legislation on Wednesday March 25th and the Senate rushed Bill through the following day. The Bill received Royal Assent early Friday morning.

The government originally wanted spending and taxation powers without parliamentary approval for the next 18 months. Taxation powers were dropped, and the term limited to 6 months rather than 18. The original legislation anticipated spending of $82 billion which has now tripled to somewhere over $252 billion and more spending is on the way.

Why is anyone surprised?

Parliament was not in session at the time, and representatives of all parties met behind closed doors to negotiate terms of an emergency session. Political parties circumvented democratic representation and there is no written record of the negotiations.

Members of Parliament (MPs) have abdicated their responsibility to ensure we have open, democratic governance. When this legislation was passed, the nation was already in lockdown and they knew it would be some time before parliament could resume. That was not an acceptable excuse for giving the government a blank cheque for the next six months.

Parliament is due to reconvene May 25th to June 23rd. I doubt that will happen. It is too easy to hide behind coronavirus regulations. It is a bit ironic that our elected representatives do not consider themselves essential. Since they are not, why have they not laid themselves off?

Therein lays the problem; even if parliament was functioning, they cannot object to coronavirus spending. Opposition members neutered themselves last March so current criticisms of government are falsetto squeaking for effect – they cannot stem the flow of money or new programs to offset virus effects. They made a deal and they are stuck with it – as are those they failed to represent.   

Parliament is not in formal session so they effectively have no work to do. That would include all Liberal members who are not members of the cabinet with responsibilities to keep government machinery working. They should get along fine on $2,000 per month emergency funding like many others.

Parliament usually recesses from the third week in June to the third week in September, but as they keep telling us, these are not normal times. Parliament should reconvene as soon as regulations are relaxed. It has many advantages as access is already restricted to prevent anther gunman from storming the building.

Members have the opportunity to lead the way by implementing a virus screening program to keep the Commons members and staff safe. If airlines, hospitals, manufacturers, personal care homes, processors, shippers like Amazon and retailers like Costco can do it, so can parliament.

The first order of business should be to require the government to get parliamentary approval of any further spending from when parliament reconvenes. The second order of business should be to require the government to table a budget within 30 days of parliament reconvening. It is time for the lads and ladies to get back to work.

We cannot force them to act responsibly, we can only watch in horror. Currently, there is no one involved in the federal coronavirus fiasco worthy of re-election. The unending barrage of cheap shots attests to that. Political parties are still fixated on power struggles while our economy burns and the people they claim to represent are driven to bankruptcy or suicide.

It is far beyond disgusting.

John Feldsted ... is a political commentator, consultant, and strategist.  He makes his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba




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